LOS ANGELES – The Cowboys had no misconceptions or illusions about the Rams' high-flying offense. Beneath the L.A. glitz – the second-most points scored in the regular season – is a physical group that grinded out the third-most rushing yards in the league.
That's part of what made Saturday's 30-22 divisional-round playoff loss so difficult for the Cowboys to accept. The Dallas defense prepared for that very task and still had no answers against L.A.'s two-headed rushing attack.
In his first game back from a December knee injury that sidelined him the final two games of the regular season, Rams All-Pro Todd Gurley gained 115 yards and a touchdown. His backup, C.J. Anderson, rumbled for 123 yards and two scores. Together, they averaged 6.1 yards on 39 carries.
"They've done a very good job running the football all year long and that was going to be a challenge for us. We just didn't do a good enough job in that area," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said.
"It's been one of the strengths of our defense all year long, trying to make teams one-dimensional. That's an objective that we had and we didn't do that tonight."
The Cowboys entered the playoffs holding opponents to an average of 94.6 rushing yards, fifth-best in the league. Only three players had reached the 100-yard mark against them all season: Chris Carson in a Week 3 loss at Seattle; Marlon Mack in a 23-0 December loss at Indianapolis; and Saquon Barkley in a Week 17 comeback win at the Giants.
Anderson saved his two biggest runs for the final two minutes, when he gained five and six yards to help L.A. run out the clock after Goff scrambled for 11 yards and forced Dallas to use its second of three timeouts.
"We didn't execute how we were supposed to," defensive tackle Antwaun Woods said. "We didn't get the job done. That's the result."
Slowing Gurley and Anderson was critical because the Rams rely so much on play-action from their run game. According to NFL Research, quarterback Jared Goff (15-of-28, 186 yards) used play-action on 51.7 percent of his dropbacks Saturday, a career high.
That balanced attack kept the Cowboys' defense on the field for 78 plays, including 45 in the first half.
"If you can't handle the run it's really hard to win," defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. "They really took it to us in the run game.
"Both (backs) are physical, but we didn't get off blocks and get the job done. There's no excuses. They did everything we expected. We just didn't execute as coaches and players."